Diener plunges dagger in Bucks
Reserve point guard Travis Diener scored 15 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, and the Pacers beat the Milwaukee Bucks 105-97 Sunday night.
Diener, who averages seven points per game, made five of six 3-pointers in the final period.
“It was big time for us,” said Danny Granger, who led the Pacers with 27 points. “It was unbelievable, that effort he put forth. It carried us through the fourth quarter.”
Michael Redd, one of the league’s top scorers, was impressed with the display. Diener made four 3s in the first 6 minutes of the quarter.
“He had 15 of his 18 in the fourth quarter? Oh my goodness,” Redd said. “He went nuts. I know he hit like five 3s, and he did a tremendous job pushing the ball and creating his own shot.”
The Pacers trail the Atlanta Hawks by three games for the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with five games to play. Indiana hosts Atlanta on Tuesday.
“We all knew that we had to win this game,” Diener said. “Everyone knows the circumstances.”
The Pacers shot 5-for-23 shooting in the third quarter, but 13-for-21 in the fourth quarter to overcome a 10-point deficit.
“We knew the shots would start falling,” Pacers coach Jim O’Brien said. “We got good looks the whole game.”
Diener also had three assists, three rebounds and a steal in the final period.
Mike Dunleavy had 17 points and seven assists and Jeff Foster had a season-high 16 points and 15 rebounds for the Pacers, who have won eight of 11.
Redd led Milwaukee with 24 points and Charlie Villanueva added 22 points and 13 rebounds for the Bucks, who have lost six of eight. Bucks point guard Mo Williams sat out with an abdominal injury.
The Bucks led 52-49 at halftime and 77-67 at the end of the third quarter.
Diener made back-to-back 3-pointers to cut Milwaukee’s lead to 77-75. Minutes later, Dunleavy made back-to-back 3s to cap a 16-0 run and give Indiana an 83-77 lead.
Diener struck again with a step-back 3-pointer that gave the Pacers a 91-82 edge with 6 minutes to play, and a dunk by Foster with 5:10 left made it 95-84. Milwaukee trailed by at least seven points the rest of the way.
“It was our shot selection that fueled their fast break,” Milwaukee coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “They got out and rolled. He (Diener) had the ball in his hands, and he never stops moving. We scrambled around trying to get back in that situation, and the Pacers do as nice a job as anybody in our league of moving the basketball.”
The Bucks missed their first eight shots of the quarter.
“Our guys got to a pretty high level defensively in the fourth quarter,” O’Brien said. “I feel good about our resilience and attitude.”
Krystkowiak was upset with the way the Bucks closed the game.
“As has happened often times in fourth quarters for us, for whatever reason, guys want to take it on their own shoulders,” he said
Krystkowiak said Foster’s contribution shouldn’t be overlooked. Foster shot 8-for-11 from the field, and at times, the rebounding specialist was a primary option.
“Great night,” Krystkowiak said. “He puts his hard had on every single night. He’s not going to win any NBA combines or anything like that. He’s kind of the poster child for hard work and determination.”
Diener said the Pacers are happy to still have a chance to make the postseason.
“At the end of the third quarter, when we were down, it was almost an indication that our playoff chances were gone,” he said. “So it was time as a team that we raised our game, and we did.”